CSUN professor receives grant from the American Heart Association to research cardiac arrest

Jessica Estrada

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CSUN professor Yohannes Shiferaw  received a grant from the American Heart Association to research the cause of heart attacks.

The association awarded  the physics professor $76,000 per year over four years for the Stochastic Cardiac Signaling and Cardiac Arrhythmia project.

Shiferaw has been working on this project at CSUN since January 2008 and three years prior at the cardiac department at UCLA.

The grant for this project will expire in December 2011.

“The heart is a complex system and most doctors don’t know what causes heart attacks,” Shiferaw said.

The research focuses on the causes of a heart attack, also known as sudden cardiac death.

When a heart attack occurs, a person’s heartbeat becomes irregular and the heart stops pumping, which can lead to death, Shiferaw said.

The underlying causes of an irregular heartbeat are not well understood, he said.

The most effective treatment is a defibrillator that shocks the heart, which can be a painful process, Shiferaw said.

He added that the research involves developing a computer model of cardiac cells and tissue to monitor the heart. They used computer simulation to understand the underlying mechanisms of the heart and why sudden cardiac death occurs.

“New insights into the underlying mechanisms will guide the development of genetic pharmacological treatments of sudden cardiac death,” Shiferaw said.

Shiferaw added that a couple of students have helped him with the computer simulation programming.

Scott Perez, director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, said professors conducting research are also very enthusiastic about their fields, which makes their classes much more interesting.

“Sponsored projects that involve students give practical experience in their area of interest,” Perez said. “Student’s benefit from these projects taught by professors who are up to date in their discipline.”

Currently, there are around 150 and 200 sponsored projects on campus, Perez said.

The Office of Research and Sponsored Projects helps faculty obtain grants by providing assistance in writing proposals and filling out forms to submit to funding agencies, as well as help in developing a budget.

“The office also has a grant writer on staff that is actively looking for opportunities for faculty,” he said. “The office serves as a liaison between the director of the project and the funding agencies.”

All departments on campus have sponsored projects. However the most active departments participating in projects are science, math and education, Perez said.

Grant values vary depending on the project and funding agency and the largest grant received last year was for $ 8 million dollars, he said.

Once the faculty member is awarded with a grant they go to the University Corporation that handles the financial accounting of all the grants received on campus, Perez added.

“The University Corporation offers project directors post award administrative support so that they can focus on their research and not stress over budgeting and paperwork,” said Krizel Leynes, grants and contracts administrative coordinator of the University Corporation.

“The University Corporation also assists faculty to set up budget accounts, approve expenditures for supplies, travel expenses and payroll for faculty or any students working on the project,” Leynes said.